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The Wonderful Sound of Clanging Metal

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Tonight marked the beginning of the intramural mixed tennis season here at the University of Michigan. I signed up with my partner from last year, my roommate's (now ex-) girlfriend. We went 2-1 in the regular season and made the semifinals of the playoffs last year (winning two rounds in a 10-team bracket).

Last year our team was named "I Feel Pretty" after the ubiquitous Nike commercial from last fall starring Maria Sharapova. We decided after that that we would name next (this) year's team "I Feel Prettier." So we went ahead with that idea. Seemed cute enough at the time, but now it takes a lot of explaining.

After having the occasional substitute last year for no real reason, my partner (TAT's aceoftennis) and I decided that we should handle it all on our own this go-round, with both of us playing the all singles and all the doubles.

The format of the ties is as follows: On Sunday night there are two simultaneous singles matches, one between a male from each team and one between a female from each team. Then on Monday night there is a mixed doubles match. It's a best out-of-three format.

Matches are played with no-ad scoring, in a best-of-three set match. Problematically, there is a seventy-five minute time limit, which doesn't seem like sufficient time to play three sets, or two longish ones. The rules state that whoever is winning at the end of seventy-five minutes is declared the winner, which I worried could be ambiguous.

Our matches are scheduled for 9:45 PM, so we decided to go hit at around 4:30 to get warmed up, as the courts would all be taken up with other intramural matches starting at six. I hadn't played in about two months, but I was hitting the ball decently enough and had pretty decent feel. I can be a decent ball striker if I choose to be.

We rearrived at the courts at around 9:30, and waited to see who our competition would be. It turned out to be some girl who was talking about all the tennis camps she went to at Stanford and some guy who was roughly my height.

As they warmed up on the court next to us, I tried to size him up as best I could. Unlike the professionals who get to research their opponents in all sorts of different ways, through videotape, the internet, or other players, all I had to size up my opponent pre-match was these few minutes. He had a Babolat racquet, which, as they are expensive, meant that she thought his tennis career was worth investing in, which was a little worrying. I then saw that he was wearing these strange looking brown Puma shoes which didn't really look like tennis shoes. That was a little reassuring, as it made me think that he wasn't perhaps taking this all that seriously. He had a pretty big backswing, and was missing a fair number of balls, which isn't all that unusual during warm-ups, so I didn't think too much of it. He was, however, getting frustrated with himself for missing so many shots, which got me excited.

The main reason that it got me excited is that frustrating the other player is always my game plan. I said before that I am a decent ball striker when I choose to be, but I rarely if ever choose to be. I tend to play a pushing, counter-punching, junkballing game that stops my opponents from dictating play and brings them down to my level, so to speak. I make points awkward and uncomfortable, and generally make my opponent feel as if he (or she) is playing the worst they've ever played. I usually serve at around 50 MPH (I'm not exaggerating), and rarely take full swings through the ball.

Our match started out with my opponent winning the racquet spin (M or W on my Wilson), and electing to serve. After I went up 0-30, I lost three straight points, but then managed to chase down a couple balls to get it to deuce. Since it was no-ad scoring, I got to choose which side he served to, so I chose the ad-court, which I arbitrarily figured was best as I had won two of my three points starting from there. I lost the point, and went down 0-1. I was pretty happy though, as I wasn't getting blown off the court, and my junkballing seemed to be working pretty decently.

I then held serve easily, and then broke easily, to go up 2-1. I then held serve easily, then broke easily, to go up 4-1. It was all going perfectly to my plan. I was keeping the ball short and in, lulling my opponent into playing with the same dearth of pace I did. He even started pushing his serves in the same way I did. I was very happy. He was getting very mad at himself, throwing or bouncing his racquet almost every other point. As I played a goaltender in hockey for nine years, I came to adore the wonderful sound of clanging metal, which meant that the puck had hit the post. It's the same for me in tennis--the sound of clanging metal means that I've successfully derailed my opponent. Every time he would start getting mad at himself I would turn around and smile to myself in a Jankovician fashion, expressing my joy over the game.

At the changeover at 4-1 he said to me "I'm sure you can tell that I haven't played since last May." While I should have found this comment obnoxious, I merely found it encouraging. When my opponents feel like they're playing poorly, it means that I'm doing something right. I don't use any gamesmanship or anything even remotely illegal, but I do try to make life hell for my opponent in every way I can.

I won my sixth unanswered game to take the set 6-1. In the games I won I was never pushed to deuce. I was happy that things were going along at a good clip, and that I was likely going to be able to win in under seventy-five minutes.

At the beginning of the second set, my opponent was playing much better. He was serving normally, and was controlling a lot more points than he had. He broke my serve and then held to go up 2-0. I started to get worried that maybe he had been tanking the end of the first set in order to ensure that he'd be able to take the second while clearing the seventy-five minute limit.

Whether he was or not, I don't know. Either way, I eked out the next five games, playing the same way I had been before, but going for a few more outright winners (albeit pushed winners).

He was getting frustrated with himself again. I had leveled the set at 2-2 with a shot that hit him, and from that point on he had been hitting the ball at me especially hard between points, to give me the balls when I was serving. I had to block a couple of them from hitting me in the head. Again, while others may have been rattled by this, I just took it as validation that I was under his skin.

Serving down 2-5, my opponent started serving much better. He hit two clean aces and was getting spin and pace on his serve that he hadn't come anywhere near in the preceding games. I had a match point at deuce (a weird thing to say), but he held and I had to serve out the match.

Which I did, rather easily. I held at love to take the match 6-1, 6-3. We had a very abrupt handshake, and I went to go report my score, and watch my partner's match alongside a couple of friends who were awesome enough to come watch us play.

Just as seventy-five minutes hit she won the second set 7-5, having lost the first 1-6. The referee was pretty clueless about what to do, so she and her opponent agreed to play a first-to-ten tiebreak, which she won 10-7. She was up 5-1 but sunk to 5-5, causing me to panic in a way that my friend said reminded him of seeing me watch Venus.

She won, and so we won the tie 2-0. I'm not sure whether or not we have to play our doubles match tomorrow, but our opponents said they probably weren't going to show up, so I don't think we'll have to. I'm absolutely fine with that, as it means I'll get to watch my Redskins on Monday Night Football, one of the few times they'll be on TV here in Michigan.

I'm all sorts of happy that we won, and I'm looking forward to next week. Thank you for reading this incredibly long entry--I'll try to keep it shorter next time.

I Feel Prettier: 1-0
oohsalmon's Singles record: 1-0

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Updated 10-03-2007 at 07:41 PM by oohsalmon



  1. mrjiggyfly2's Avatar
    It's usually a good sign when your opponent is getting mad during the warmups. Nice Job!!!
  2. dryrunguy's Avatar
    Well done, salmon!!!! Very nice read!
  3. morct's Avatar
    Nice one oohsalmon, hope the rest of the league goes just as well for you.
  4. sblanc's Avatar
    Well done the I feel prettier Team.
    Thanks for the indepth report. Its facinating how you seemed to be actully thinking out there on court.
    I just go out there and hit the ball as hard as I can. And end up pretty frustrated sometimes coz I get beat by someone who's kinnda pushing/moonballing me and it makes me want to just hit the ball harder and usually out of the court. Should try some of your tactics sometime.
    Good luck for the rest of the season.
  5. Tscott415's Avatar
    Thats really cool good job and a very nice read!
  6. oohsalmon's Avatar
    Thank you all

    There are four teams in our division for regular season (we play three regular season ties), and our next opponent is 1-0. Eek.

    Then again, so are we
  7. jjnow's Avatar
    Awesome job, salmon. Very enjoyable read!
  8. mmmm8's Avatar
    Thanks and good luck with the rest of the season, Salmon!
  9. aceoftennis87's Avatar
    you're ridiculous.
  10. beaujarkko's Avatar

    I had no idea you went to U of M. I'm like, not even an hour's drive away from there!
  11. oohsalmon's Avatar
    Indeed beau! I've been surprised to see how many people on TAT are from Michigan. I Google Earthed a couple of the places to see where they were, although I couldn't find Mamaport

    There's a lot of tennis love up here, apparently. Maybe the Upper Peninsula is a racquet that the hand is throwing?

    Anywho...I was just thinking how cool it would be if UM IM Tennis did Livescoring
    Updated 09-19-2007 at 11:10 PM by oohsalmon
  12. beaujarkko's Avatar
    LOL. I'll buy that. Mamaport is about an hour (-ish) north of you, maybe a little further. Seriously I'd tune in to any livescoring!
  13. jjnow's Avatar
    Tons of Michiganders on this board. Jean, beau (and family), salmon, Darcy. There are more that I'm forgetting.

    Then we have our NY chapter: M8, GVG (by way of Jersey I believe), and Ti.

  14. beaujarkko's Avatar
    jkfriedman is from lovely MI as well
  15. Ti-Amie's Avatar
    Loved the report Salmon. Please make sure to keep us informed.
    The Western Division is pretty stocked too. Kirkus of course. And then there's Bea. There is also another regular whose name is escaping me right now. I think they're organizing the Tail Gate for IW. Darn it I can't remember the name. Oh well. Someone will.

    Southwest is shtexas of course. He's the only one I know off the top of my head.
  16. oohsalmon's Avatar
    Our second set of singles matches are Sunday night, 9:45 EST.

    I have no reason to be nervous, what with all the rest I'm getting the night before...